Shibaji is a practitioner in learning and development and also works closely with clients in the wealth management space. He graduated in Economics from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack and completed his post graduate diploma from IISWBM, Kolkata. Shibaji has had a professional career spanning more than two decades in sales and distribution, which includes the likes of Colgate Palmolive, HDFC Bank and IDFC Mutual fund. He called it quits in 2009 to be on his own and is a currently a partner with Positive Vibes Consulting & Advisory.
He is a life enthusiast, an uncompromising foodie and is known for his sense of humour. You can reach him at www.shibajibose.com
Till We Meet Again is a story of resilience and determination, it’s a heady cocktail of familial bonds, hope, deceit, vengeance and love.
When I think of some of the all-time best of stories that has left a deep and everlasting impact on me, it includes but is not limited to the titles like Great expectations, Wuthering heights, Oliver Twist, The Hungry Tide, Malgudi Days and Chowringhee. The stories have celebrated the lives of ordinary people and the socio-political environment, which prevailed during those times. I knew, I had a story and I wanted to narrate it. The beauty of writing a story about ordinary people is that it becomes relatable. It comes somewhere between a fiction and the fairy-tale. So, sometime back in 2014 when I started writing the book, I had a fair idea of the central plot, the sub-plots and the characters. The first thing that I did was to revisit my favourite books and find out the chapter planning by the authors. The idea was to create a page turner. I had set myself with three clear objectives, considering the fact that the genre would be a contemporary fiction. The first being, each of the characters must evolve gradually but should not end abruptly. Secondly, the socio-political environment must be realistic to make the reader believe that he or she is living it while reading the book and lastly, it must have a fairly wide appeal, instead of getting bracketed for a defined audience. The characters are on a first name basis till their surnames reveal their identity with respect to their caste, religion, stereotypes etc. It was intentional.
I used to write from late night and if I got into a flow, the writing extended till early mornings. Typically, I put in 3-4 hours of writing at any point in time. I did have a story graph and the chapter planning helped me with the composition as per the plan. Regrettably my own research told me that as a first-time writer, I must ideally work towards creating a crisp reading within a specific word limit, beyond which it may not get the desired consideration by a publisher. I wish, I could add two more chapters to the book!
The backdrop of Kolkata is a happenstance because I live in the city. I will not be surprised if the reader relates to the story to their own city. The character of a city is not defined by the skyscrapers, the shopping malls or the multiplexes. It is the people and the life that they live, which lends a character to the city. The city of Kolkata is otherwise identified by the Howrah bridge, football, the maidan, the tramline and the street food from among many other typical traits. I have attempted to recreate and depict Kolkata in a fresh version. A version that challenges all those landmarks and moments etched in the minds of all those who know the city well. The shopping mall, the unisex beauty & wellness salon are the two defining landmarks in my narrative. My Kolkata is not frail and fragile. It is as robust and resilient as a Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Chennai. It is modern, it is rebellious, it is forward looking and it is open to experimenting and adopting the unconventional, even at the cost of annoying the guardians of the decaying practices, beliefs and customs.
The political and religious differences stem from some form of insecurity. I am a story teller and I am as human as anyone else. I cannot dissociate myself from what’s happening around me. Even if I chose to remain silent or decide to participate, I will eventually end up, conveying something or the other. That’s why I have used the phrase – “Opinions are like a@#$holes, each one of us has one. On everything and on everyone!”Aryan is looking for approval from all those who matter to him. I think, his search is beyond peace. Aryan is on his journey of self-discovery. A journey, which promises a sense of accomplishment upon the fulfilment. Once he reaches his destination upon the completion of his journey, he might end up with finding the peace and the friendly habitat. Aryan’s journey has merely begun!
It is difficult to pinpoint to any single instance or incidence, but the immediate recollection that is coming to my mind while responding to this question is as follows. It was winter night of October, in the postcard perfect location of a quaint little place called Noamundi in West Singhbhum, Jharkhand. I was in class V, enjoying the Puja vacation, flipping through the Anandamela Puja Barshiki (the annual issue of a children magazine – Anandamela). We used to have a khatiya (charpoy), which was laid in the kitchen garden that was attended to, by my father. Noamundi clearly qualifies as one of those exotic hill stations that is yet to be mentioned in any travel magazine, but one must visit the place to be mesmerized with its beautiful people and the landscape.I must have fallen asleep to the lullaby sung by the fog, which was floating across. I saw my grandmother. She was there with a huge bindi on her forehead, smiling at me. “Dadubhai, you will secure the first rank in your first terminal examination.” She vanished in the fog. I narrated the incidence to my mother while having dinner. She comforted me and my father stopped eating, rose up from his chair and led me to my bed.Our native place is Madhupur, another beautiful place where I was born. It used to take one and a half days to reach Madhupur during those days. I had forgotten the incidence. Playing gilli danda, lukka chuppi and cricket with my friends had just about erased the silhouette of my grandmother vanishing in the fog. Two things happened on a single day. Wahid uncle’s son Badruddin, came visiting us all the way from Madhupur and my father came home early on that day. He was not his usual self. He had a telegram, sent by my grandfather. Mother expired, come home. On our return to Noamundi, Chanchal kaku came to see us. He was carrying my progress report card. His sister was a teacher in our school. I had stood first in the class!
My experience as a writer was in for an astonishing shock when I started getting regret e-mails from the publishers. The most common reason provided for not considering my manuscript was that it did not fit the publishing plan for the year. I consoled myself that these were the templates available with the publishers to politely refuse a first-time writer. It intrigued me enough to push me to find out the actual reason.I got in touch with many other writers, literary agents and authors. I researched blogs and websites on traditional and self-publishing. I learnt that the publishers indeed work out a detailed plan on the genre of writing that will be considered by the editors’ discerning eyes. Anything that does not fit the plan is turned down. This is besides the other genuine reasons for a publisher to turn down or reject a manuscript. Publishing is a meticulous business and the people who run it, know it the best. The relationship and values that dictate the present days are certainly considered crucial backdrop for a story. For example, if one were to carefully check the titles released during this year in the fiction category, one will find that it has been largely dominated by the mythology, thrillers, and mushy romances. A little more careful consideration of the titles by reading some of the books will help understand the nuances. The basic premises remain the same but with the degree of dissent, acceptance and rejection differing from time to time, depending upon the socio-political contexts.So yes, the author must be in sync with the prevailing times or create a believable context for the reader, while writing the story. I think, this is one of those dominant filters that determine the fate of a book.
Let me admit that my outlook on women was not exactly how I have portrayed the female characters in my book. I must acknowledge that after I was through with writing the book, it had tremendously affected me and my way of looking at women. I stand reformed through and by the portrayal of the female characters in my book. In other words, yes, I wanted to address the role of women in my book. Priya, Kavya and Nagma are the most powerful and most dominant of all the female characters in my book. I have started viewing the world with their eyes.
The family and friends are happy that the book saw the light of the day. Now that the book is up for sale, I am receiving feelers. A bunch of my friends and family is finding the book extremely relatable and have finished it in a single go. Another set of my friends and family members are putting up questions on WhatsApp. Why did the mother have to go missing? Why did you make Kavya be so insensitive? What is stopping Priya from not admitting her feelings for Aryan? Why are we getting so little out of Ahana? Is there a sequel planned? Etc.The other set of friends and family, albeit few in numbers are critically evaluating the books. The storytelling, the language, grammar etc. Most of them are of the opinion that I have chosen to use complex words and long sentences. That the editing could have been better. In other words, it could have been simpler! As for the compliments, well, there are quite a few of them. Many surprises of reconnecting with long lost friends across geographies because of the book. The best compliments received so far includes the following:a) It is detailed and gripping. b) It is a page turner.c) A highly relatable content with twists and turns.d) Socio-political environment depicted in a very realistic and balanced manner.e) The chapter on Durga puja, sindoor khela, bisarjan and the evoking yearnings and fond memories, especially for all those who are not residing in Kolkata.f) The element of surprise in every relationship is making them sit up and take notice.g) Whenever they feel that the outcome is predictable, they is getting outwitted by the twists & turns.